“I need an abortion. How can I get the pill thing?” A you
ng woman rings to find out how she can take a pill to prevent her pregnancy continuing. They make it sound as if it is like popping an aspirin for a headache. A few pills and the problem is solved. No-one need ever know. Just a few pills and back to normal; no pregnancy, no baby. “Just like that!”
It wasn't just like that for 18-year-old Manon Jones. Pregnant by her Muslim boyfriend, she struggled with whether to continue. She had wanted to keep the baby but it sounds as if his parents did not even know of her existence. Naeem persuaded her to go against her convictions. So, like many women before her, it felt that the circumstances were against her.
The procedure was carried out on the NHS. All was fine, until, 48 hours after taking the second part of the medication; she started bleeding, felt light-headed and ill. She was given a scan which showed no problems, so she continued with her holiday arrangements. Within days she was back home in Bristol, and took a taxi to the same hospital. The doctor treating her felt she needed a blood transfusion, but that she could wait. Another emergency arose and by the time she was given the blood, it was too late. She died three days later with her mother at the bedside having suffered seizures and a cardiac arrest. The Coroner said she had died of hypovolemia and shock caused by retained products of conception.
Last Friday, the Today programme ran the story that women all over the world are now able to obtain RU 486 on line. This is the medication that is used in this country to bring about an abortion in 30pc of women. Martin Lupton, Chair of the Ethics committee at the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, was obviously concerned. The medication is available to women living in Northern Ireland and in seventy other countries where abortion is illegal. He questioned the right of those behind the website to subvert domestic law in this way.
I have checked out the website. It does not take long to answer the 25 questions that allow you access to the “doctor” who will certify that you can be sent the abortion pills. They ask your age and you have to say that you do not suffer from heart, liver, kidney, thyroid problems; nor from high blood pressure etc. Then you have to say that you are less than nine weeks pregnant, preferably confirmed by a dating ultrasound. Another question is that, should anything go wrong, you are within 60 minutes of a medical centre.
I have to question how they are going to determine the honesty of their clients, and how easy it is for them to get a scan in the first place. And even if a hospital is within an hours' reach, who is going to get them there, giving that most women keep their unplanned pregnancies secret and that in the countries where they cannot get an abortion, this is even more likely.
Put this easy provision against the tragic story of Manon Jones and the reality of what is truly on offer comes home. She died in the UK after taking RU486 following a legal, hospital abortion with full medical support.
The agenda of those who are backing the website is clear. They are using the internet to get round the abortion law in countries who do not share their ideology. There is nothing to prevent a scared teenager in a “named country” from lying her way through the form. Who is going to check the gestation of her pregnancy? Who is going to check how far she is from medical help? Who is going to check that she has someone responsible with her while she takes the medication and then remains with her for hours until she thinks she is ok?
This same agenda is behind those whose amendments are tabled for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology bill as it enters the Report stage and Third Reading today. They want only one doctor's signature to sign the consent form instead of two. They want to remover the need for the abortion to be justified on health or psychological grounds. And they want to allow nurses and midwives to carry them out. Even this last was rejected by the normally liberal British Medical Association.
They are pushing a “right to choose agenda” and abortion on demand. They are not interested in women having the right to know all the relevant information and then making an informed choice. Listen to how they frame their arguments today, and you will find out for yourself what is driving them.